Villa Arconati (General Presentation)

The monumental complex of Villa Arconati is one of the most emblematic and at the same time the most dramatic representative of villas north of Milan. It can in fact be considered the prototype and an essential example of country residences of Lombardy, despite the fact that in its interiors, architectural solutions and decorative elements created in different eras coexist side by side and sometimes overlap.

The current architectural complex of the 16th century based on a pre-existing one transformed by the Cusani family at the end of the 16th century, is in large part attributed to Galeazzo Arconati and his son-in-law Luigi Maria II, who decided to build a magnificent building that would express the political and economic power achieved by this noble family. The villa also served to accommodate the important ancient artworks collected by Galeazzo Arconati, acknowledged not only in Lombardy for having purchased in Rome an entire collection of classical sculptures, now largely lost, and to have obtained a group of codices of Leonardo da Vinci, including the famous Atlantic Code, donated, with some fruition clause, to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana/Ambrosian Library in 1637, to celebrate its founder Federico Borromeo, cousin of Galeazzo Arconati.
The reference Models of Galeazzo Arconati’s project were the imposing palaces in Europe, which are shown here on a smaller scale together with the appurtenant garden, which, over the decades, was enriched with small buildings, natural theatres and emerging sculptures positioned at the end of tree lined boulevards and carefully studied optical-prospective cones.
The complex was not built and expanded in a day but is the result of a long construction process of successive interventions, capable of interacting with the choices already made, acting as a suitable response to the new cultural and figurative demands of modernity.
The construction of the south-western wing and some significant work done within the vast garden are attributed to Giuseppe Maria Arconati. Instead, Giuseppe Antonio Arconati is attributed with the proposed extension of the villa during the first half of the 18th century, with the completion of the new Quarters and the new creation of a third façade overlooking the renovated park with its new and scenic garden designs based on innovative and formal solutions like the use of special Hornbeam woods and the application of the noblest and courteous expressions of topiary art, harmoniously combined with the French garden with its vast parterres and geometric flower beds.
Numerous frescoes in the villa date back to the eighteenth century, among the most distinguished is the grand reception hall also known as the Galliari Hall. The villa was devoid of a reception hall in 1750, so Giuseppe Antonio Arconati decided to solve this dilemma and called on the Bernardino brothers (1707-1794), Fabrizio (1709-1790) and Giovanni Antonio (1714-1783) Galliari, acknowledged as the most well known Turin designers, decorators and painters active in Lombardy. Completed just after 1750, the fresco cycles of the reception hall by the Galliari brothers, is recognized today by critics and for the first time by Rossana Bossaglia in 1962 as one of best examples of artistic expression of this family of artists.
In 1772 the villa was purchased by the Busca family, who made plans for the renovation of the garden, most of which have never been carried out; it was the Busca family that commissioned the painted decorations of the reception hall in 1865 whose entire ceiling was probably painted in trompe l ‘oeil by painter Giocondo Albertolli.
The beautiful furnishings and magnificent collections contained in the villa were dispersed and auctioned off at the end of the 1980s and its last owner yielded the property and appurtenant garden, allowing the grand country residence to be reborn for the public’s enjoyment.